Guest post by Jemima Bartlett:
Warming up prior to exercise is a given for human athletes,
although, a structured warm up is often overlooked for equine athletes. Warm ups
are essential to physically and mentally prepare the horse for exercise and to
Brushing your horse may seem trivial, but I challenge you to
rethink this notion. Curry combing is a fantastic method to increase
circulation and blood flow. While, using a dandy and body brush will ensure you
notice any nicks and cuts your horse may have sustained. Likewise, brushing can
help indicate any soreness your horse may be experiencing if your horse
twitches, swishes his tail, scowls or attempts to kick out at any time during
Stretches on the ground
Carrot stretches on either sides of the horse’s wither are
fantastic for loosening the horse’s neck muscles prior to riding. While, carrot
stretches between the horses front legs help stretch the topline as do belly
lift stretches. Stretching the horse back legs can also help loosen the back
muscles prior to riding. As with all stretches, start by asking very little and
gradually asking for a more comprehensive stretch over a period of weeks.
Using a massage machine such as the Equilibrium machine or
Equissage can be a fantastic method to warm up horses and is favoured by
professional riders across all disciplines. Also, massage and vibrations for
these machines increase circulation and blood flow which can help improve
issues such mild arthritis, stable swelling and generalised cuts &
abrasions. Massage is not a solution to these issues, however, as a warm up
technique prior to exercise will help increase suppleness and decrease the
impact of these issues for work under saddle.
Walking under saddle
Walking for 10-15minutes at the beginning of every ride is a
vital method to reduce the likelihood of horses sustaining injuries as a result
of exercise. Encouraging the horse to stretch over its back in an easy,
non-strenuous fashion helps the horse’s muscles warm up and prepare for work.
Likewise, the very nature of stretching as gentle, calm and relaxing can help
the horse’s mentality towards working. Walking has been suggested to help
support oxygen and glucose availability by University of Kentucky researchers
in connection with Kentucky Equine Research.
Long & low
This method of stretching under saddle targets the horse’s
topline region and encourages the back muscles to develop. During this exercise,
horses will step underneath themselves and as a result curve their back
upwards, therefore lifting the rider up on top of them. Through, developing the
back muscles in a non-strenuous manner much like walking on a loose rein, the
horse’s muscles will warm and be more prepared for intense exercise. In
addition, flexing inwards and counter flexing slightly in a long & low
frame can aid the horse’s flexibility through its whole body and neck region.
Until next time,
Jemima Bartlett is the CruiseController. She is a University
student and dressage rider based in Australia. She has recently taken to
combining her passions as writing and riding through the creation of a blog
titled, “Delusions of Dressage Grandeur”. You can check out Jemima and her
horse Cruise on Instagram and Twitter.